In an excerpt from the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism Report on the State of Health + Urbanism, Jocelyn Pak Drummond offers a brief history of the co-development, segregation, and reconnection of the fields of planning and public health.
"Urban planning and public health emerged out of the same urban movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries," she explains. "Some scholars even considered these fields to be the same as late as the 1930s."
But, she notes, "By the 1930s, cities were able to control disease and create functioning sanitation systems. There was less of a need for reformers and planners to deal directly with health concerns, and therefore less of a need for these professionals to work together toward the same goals. The public health field began to drift away from filth theory and toward germ theory, which dealt with the biological causes of diseases rather than the environmental ones."
However, she adds, "Over the past two decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in the relationship between the fields of architecture, urban planning and public health. Researchers and professionals in these fields have identified the need for better connections between the disciplines in order to address today’s major health concerns."